Friday, January 29, 2016

In With the New

As the vision for the church plant becomes clearer and the date for our first service (planned for May) approaches, we are seeing more and more work that needs to be completed. Because Edwin works full time, it's very much a team effort. We've gotten some wonderful help in building the website, but we still need to develop the content and find the right photographs. Our heart's desire is that the website communicates a sense of hope for the city of Jamestown. It seems like many of the locals have given up on this city, but Edwin and I know that God's grace could make the future infinitely better than the past.

We met with an interior designer to discuss ways to improve the interior of the church. Although it is a beautiful building, it doesn't reflect the city of Jamestown very well. Almost everyone who has entered has said, "it feels like a cute country church." Jamestown isn't really a "cute country town". It's far larger and more diverse, though it does retain the feeling of a small town. 

(No matter how you slice it, that's a lot of wood.) 

Just as we want the website to reflect a sense of hope for this area, we want the church building to communicate the same message. It doesn't need to feel foreign to Jamestown, but it needs to express the idea of what God wants for this city. We have some good ideas to move forward, and we're looking forward to seeing how God uses this building in the future. It's just a building, and it cannot reach Jamestown for Jesus, but the people who will meet here are more than adequate to turn this place upside-down through God's grace. Please pray that we will make wise choices in the changes that we make to the building. Pray that God provides the financial resources that are needed to make this a safe place that reflects a sense of welcome. Pray that we will prioritize changes well.

Edwin is still doing an awesome job at work, though the cold and snow slow him down and wear him out a bit. Please pray for energy and success as he continues to literally plow through the streets to do his job.

God has begun to build His church here. We have had more and more conversations with people who interested in checking the church out once services begin. We have a family who is coming alongside us to start the new community of faith that God is putting together. Please pray that we will be faithful stewards of the grace that God has given us, and that we won't miss an opportunity to make Him known, praise His name, and share His grace with those around us.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support. They are more effective than you realize.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Part 1 of our Adoption Story

I'll be the first to admit that now isn't the most convenient time to adopt. The church planting process is long and difficult, and we've learned that we're doing it in the most challenging way possible (without a core group). Moving from one place to another and then trying to bring a new family member into the mix doesn't make it easier on the girls. Adoption can be stressful, and it's always costly.
When I bring up Li, which is extremely often, I regularly get the question "Why did you decide to adopt?" It's never asked with judgment or disgust. People simply want to know why we as a family have decided to adopt.
We're adopting for the same reason that we're planting a church. Since all four Attaways have chosen to follow Christ, we are all ministers of the Gospel. That means that all four of us have volunteered to make sacrifices to bring other people closer to a saving relationship with our King. We do this through our everyday relationships, church planting, secular work, and now through adoption.
But adoption has always been a part of our family's calling.
When I was fourteen, my mom handed me a copy of the Birmingham News that included a story about Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman and their decision to adopt. I don't remember what the article said, exactly. I just remember thinking, "I want that! I want a family that is built by grace and not just biology."
From that time, I started praying for the birth mother(s) of my child or children. I prayed that God would use their pregnancies and eventual decisions to surrender their children to bring them into a relationship with Him. I prayed that they would have healthy pregnancies and make good choices on behalf of the children that we would both mother in two different ways. I prayed that God would bless them. I have no idea how God has responded to those prayers.
I also started praying for the child or children that my husband and I would eventually adopt. I prayed that they would be loved until we could get to them. I prayed that they would be cared for and that their needs would be met. I prayed that He would let them know, somehow, that they have a family who loves them and who will not stop until we brought them home.
On my first date with Edwin, I told him that God had called me to adopt, and that it was a deal-breaker for me. I understand that not all men feel that they can love a child that isn't their biological descendant. (Though I don't really believe that they're all correct about that.) Edwin didn't really have an opinion on the matter to that point, and he was more than happy to consider adoption. He let me know that he also came with requirements. He was called to the ministry, and that meant that his wife would need to be called to being a ministry wife. I had already accepted that as a part of God's call on my life, so it looked like we were in the clear.
After Edwin and I got married and had our two beautiful girls, we decided it was time to start actively pursuing adoption. We tried working through the foster care system, but God closed that door. We began to think that He was closing the door to adoption altogether. We couldn't imagine a way to pay the fees and costs of international adoption.
But the idea wouldn't let us go. It was about a year ago that Edwin and I returned to the idea of international adoption. As God had planned it, Edwin knew a man who had become an important leader in a Christian adoption agency. Not wanting to be swindled, Edwin called his trusted brother in Christ to talk about the possibility of international adoption. Although we still didn't understand how we would pay the fees, which came to about 75% of our annual income, we knew that it was what God would have us do and that this agency was how God wanted us to move forward.
So we took out a loan against our retirement to pay the initial fees, and we got going. God has provided in many different ways throughout the process. Many of His people have graciously given to the adoption fund, and we've received grants from a few organizations. I also took on a job to pay the outstanding fees when we needed additional funding.
This summer we found the profile for a little guy who was listed by the name of Maxwell. The list of medical issues seemed long, but we talked to several people, and we eventually spoke to a doctor who had seen the little guy recently. His medical concerns weren't non-existent, but they were certainly manageable for us.
As I looked through the pictures of this precious little boy, I felt hot tears fall down my face. He was mine! I don't know how, but I knew it. I was looking at my son.
It took Edwin a little longer, but when we received a recent photo, he became convinced of the same truth that I had come to know. The little boy in the picture was our child, and we had to bring him home!
It was around the same time that God called us to leave Brushton and move to Jamestown. We moved because that's what God was calling us to do. It meant that we would have to have our home study revised, but it would work out. We could be where we were called to live and adopt the child that we were called to adopt. (I've learned that God's will never contradicts itself.)
Then I learned how God had answered the prayers that I prayed as a teenager. A couple of years ago, a young woman from the Jamestown area felt called to serve God overseas. She followed His voice and found herself in China. In a foster home. Holding a little boy to whom she gave the English name Thad. The young woman prayed for the baby she held, and she prayed for his forever family.
Her parents began to pray for the baby boy who had come into the foster home with several medical concerns. Her parents became one of his sponsors. They contributed to his medical care. The young woman's mom even made a trip to visit her daughter. During her stay, she held the little boy she had loved and in whom she had invested financially and through prayer.
That little boy was my son. I had prayed that God would find someone to hold my little boy and tell him that he is loved and precious and so very valuable until I could get there and do that job myself, and He provided a young woman from Jamestown! Praise God for her obedience to her calling and His faithfulness in all things!
Why are we adopting? We're adopting because we were adopted. We were born into this world broken, in desperate need of a Father to make us His own. We weren't healthy. We weren't the heirs that He deserved. But we were His. He saw us, and He knew that Edwin Attaway was His son, and Hannah, DeLaynie, and Ella Attaway were his daughters.
We are adopting because this little boy is worth every bit of the effort and financial cost that it will take to bring him home.
We're not adopting because we think that this little guy needs us to come and save him. We're adopting because we need God to save us, and so does Li.
We're adopting because it's our privilege to do so.
I know that everything could get more difficult tomorrow. I know that something could take a wrong turn, and we could get our hearts broken. The wonderful news is that since the beginning of time, our lives have belonged to God, and He knows what He is doing. We're just going to keep following Him wherever He leads, and we pray and genuinely believe that one step on that journey will bring our son into our arms.
We sent a box before Christmas, hoping that it would get there in time, but we sent it hopelessly late. The wonderful foster home director sent us these pictures of our little guy as he gets a first look at the photo album that we included. He also got to wear his first "knit by mom" hat. His reaction bears an uncanny resistance to the girls' initial reaction to new knit-wear. 
If you're considering the possibility of adopting from Asia, I highly encourage you to check out this webinar from Lifeline. They are a wonderful agency, and I cannot recommend them more.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

He Goes Before Us

Over the next couple of weeks, we're trying to complete the work that we've already started.

  • I'm trying to finish the first draft for the second part of my book.
  • Edwin is trying to finish the church planting abstract and timeline.
  • We're both trying to finish the adoption dossier and get it sent to our agency where it will be authenticated and processed.
  • We're finishing plans to start a small group.

In the midst of all of this, however, God has reminded us that He has already gone before us. We learned through another local minister that a young woman from a family in the area actually worked in the foster home where our son lives! Her parents, who live just a few minutes from us, have gone and held our little boy and have been supporting him and praying for him.

We needed this reminder. We needed to remember that our God has ordered our steps and prepared each of them to get us to where we needed to be.

Please pray that we will follow God's path in every area of life. Pray that we will prioritize the things that need to get done and work effectively in each area.

We are praying for mission teams late this spring and this summer. If you or your church would like to get involved in the things God is doing in Jamestown, please contact us!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Rubber, Sponge, and Mom's Night Out

I finally saw Mom's Night Out last week. I wanted to see it since it came out, but one thing or another got in the way. Last week everything lined up, and I finally got to see it. It was hysterical!

My favorite scene was when Sondra, the pastor's wife, panics when a waitress leaves a platter of empty beer bottles right in front of her. As Sondra tries to get the demon containers into the trash can, the "Dance Cam" light spots her, showing the entire bowling alley the guilty-looking pastor's wife with her arms full of beer bottles. "Little Miss Busy-Body" from church runs to find a phone to let everyone from church know about Sondra's dirty little secret.

I've tried so hard to be a "good pastor's wife", but I know that I fail to meet everyone's standards, including my own.

During these transitional months, it's been a different experience. (Sometimes I don't even pick out Sunday clothes until Sunday morning, like a crazy woman!) Although I'm enjoying the break from expectations, I'm also learning that just like Sondra, there's no way to prevent disappointment. Some people are going to be unhappy, no matter what.

I recently learned that our previous church was in an uproar about a certain choice that I made about a year ago. Church members were calling church leaders. There were discussions about what could have motivated my decision.

What was the cause of such a debacle?

I changed pews. I moved three rows back from my previous spot on the front row.

Why would I do such a thing?

There wasn't enough room.

That was it. My kids had grown, and so had the other kids who sat on the front pew, and there simply wasn't enough room. I moved pews to have some more space for me and the girls to sit.

And I liked it. I liked being closer to more of the church members. I liked having a pew in front of me to keep the kids from feeling as free to move around. I liked that they saw people in front of them, so they were more aware that they were in church. I liked turning around and shaking hands with more people during the greeting time. (No one goes to the front, really.)

But somehow my little seat change inspired a whole mess of questions, conjectures, and concerns.


Because I was the pastor's wife. The spotlight was going to shine on me when I didn't want it to. People were going to assume the worst when the truth wasn't so bad. All of the pressures of normal life were going to be amplified because my husband was the pastor.

This stuff is normal. Sometimes we just have to be rubber instead of a sponge.

Almost every pastor's wife lives under constant scrutiny, but for me, there are moments when it becomes too much. There are days when the criticism cuts more deeply than it normally does. There are times when I just can't not care anymore because to block out everyone's opinions means I have to wall myself off, and I'm just too lonely to do that. I would rather hurt than be completely alone.

I love these people, even the ones who were so worried about the seating arrangement at church. They're my friends, my brothers and sisters. They're my family. Nothing changes that. All families have issues. We're all just trying to figure stuff out and live as well as we can. We all mess up at it sometimes. I forgive them, and I hope that they forgive me when I say unkind or unhelpful things, too.

I signed up for this whole pastor's wife gig knowing what it entails. But there are some days that I just want to sit in the back, worship my God, and not put on a show for everyone else. God knew that, so He gave us this little break.

He sees me, but He isn't watching to see how I fail. He's watching because He just cares about me.

Isn't that a nice thought?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

What Could This Year Bring?

We're planning for what could be a very big year.

We're working toward completing our dossier for adopting our son from China. We're not sure when we will get to bring him home, but we are as certain as we can be that 2016 won't come to a close until our son is home with us! That's a joyous thought! 

Edwin and I finished our timeline for the church planting process. We know that God is going to have to work in order for our plans to become reality, and our prayer is that our plans will reflect His, not the other way around. The more we consider the realities of planting a church, the more aware we become of our need for God's grace and favor. 

As Edwin works his full time job, he gets to see inside the homes and lives of local families. The need here (and everywhere) is great! The task is more than we can handle, but we know that our God is able to turn lives around in amazing ways! Please pray that God will prepare hearts to hear His glorious Gospel. Pray that Edwin will be motivated and not discouraged by the need for Christ that he sees daily. 

We are making local friends and contacts that have been encouraging and helpful. A few of them may become important members of the church that God is planting. Please pray that God brings the leaders that will build His church for His glory. Please pray for a good spiritual chemistry between Edwin and future church leaders. 

Since we moved, the girls have had a much harder time going to sleep. Please pray that God will give them peaceful hearts as well as sleep. 

Pray that each of us will make one or two good Christian friends that will encourage us and that we can encourage.

Thank you for your prayers! You will never know how important they are.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Holding Loosely to High hopes

I'm in the process of finishing my first book! My goal is to release it in March or April. My prayer is that the book will open some doors for teaching opportunities. I honestly can't even express to you how much I miss teaching. I know that sounds melodramatic, but it's true. It's like a part of me is missing. For now, I'm writing in an attempt to fill in the gaps.

At the same time, I just started writing a devotional for reading the Bible chronologically. Man, is it a blast to write! I have no idea if I'll be able to stick with it through the course of an adoption, church planting, and whatever else God has in store for this year, but I really hope to complete it and release it in two volumes.

I have high hopes for 2016, but I know one thing: I had no idea that I'd be in Jamestown, NY one year ago.

If I'm honest, I also know that I have no idea what I'll be doing one year from today. Yes, I have hopes, even a few plans, but I don't know anything. God has a way of throwing curve balls that I didn't plan for, and He tends to take me places that I didn't expect.

So here I am, hands open with my dreams on my palms, offering to God my heart, my hopes, and my life. I've made a few resolutions, but my only true goal is trust.

My goal for this year is not to attain a certain accomplishment or achieve a certain kind of success. I simply aspire to trust the Father and follow Him wherever He leads. I resolve to know Him more fully and trust Him more deeply. What could be a greater achievement?